The Nigeria Police Force has said it is not aware of the Executive Order reportedly issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to revoke licences for firearms or short guns nationwide.
The Executive Order, according to reports, is to take effect from June 1 (today).
The President was said to have signed the order on May 22, 2019, in response to threats by some Niger Delta militants to declare a Niger Delta Republic and secede from Nigeria.
But, the police denied knowledge of the order barely 24 hours after the National Assembly, through the Federal House of Representatives, passed a resolution asking Buhari to reverse it in the interest of Nigerians.
The resolution followed the consideration and adoption of a motion, which came under Matters of Urgent Public Importance, titled, ‘Motion on the Need for Mr President to Rescind the Executive Order to Remove, Revoke and Banish all Firearms Certificates and Licences Throughout the Country,” at the plenary.
The lawmakers contended that the Executive Order cannot override an Act of Parliament, just as they urged the President to sign into law the bill on the Establishment of the (National) Commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The green chamber said many citizens would be left vulnerable and would be at the mercy of mindless criminals, terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, if the order was not rescinded.
The lawmakers argued that licensed guns were not the ones used to perpetrate crimes, noting that withdrawing the guns would further expose law-abiding Nigerians to danger as they would become the target of “mindless criminals and bandits.”
They called on security agencies to rather go after the criminals carrying out their nefarious acts with unlicensed guns.
According to reports, the Executive Order mandates the police and other security agencies to confiscate all firearms in the possession of Nigerians
If implemented, thousands of Nigerians would lose their licensed arms which may increase their vulnerabilities.
But the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said he was “not aware” of the order.
Responding to Saturday PUNCH enquiries on Friday about the implementation of the order for revocation of firearms licences, the police spokesman simply said, “I am not aware of the order and we cannot confirm the order.”
Mba declined further comments, saying that was all he could say on the matter.
Findings by our correspondents indicated that the Presidency had neither commented nor denied reports on the purported order since it came to the public domain contrary to the practice by the Presidential spokespersons who usually announce government policies or deny any form of false reports.
President Buhari’s National Assembly Liaison Officer, Senator Ita Enang, on Friday declined to speak on the issue.
He said, “It is not appropriate for me to speak on it. That is my response.”
Also, none of the President’s spokespersons responded to enquiries by Saturday PUNCH.
Neither his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, nor his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, responded to enquiries.
All attempts on Friday to reach the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr Dayo Apata, who heads the Federal Ministry of Justice pending the appointment of a new AGF were not successful.
His telephone line was unreachable and a text message sent to him had not been delivered as of the time of filing this report on Friday.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has described the revocation of gun licences as uncalled for.
He said gun licences were granted to citizens to complement the measure put in place by the government to protect life and property of citizens in the face of grave dangers to lives and properties as being witnessed under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He said the revocation of such licences could create the impression that the government was exposing Nigerians to further danger.
Calling for a review of the President’s Executive Order, Falana said the solution was for federal and state governments to re-organise and equip the Nigeria Police, motivate all police personnel and increase their number phenomenally for proper policing of the country.
He said, “The right to life guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to self defence and the defence of your property.
“If you apply for licence to bear arms and you are granted, the purpose is to complement the measures put in place by the government to protect your life and property in a moment of grave danger to your life and property as we are currently witnessing under the Buhari administration.
“The revocation of gun licences from those who have legally acquired them is uncalled for. It is a measure that has to be reviewed as a matter of urgency so that the impression is not created that the government is exposing Nigerians to further danger.”
He added, “What is required in the circumstance is for the government, federal and state, to urgently re-organise and equip the Nigerian Police Force and motivate all police personnel and increase the number phenomenally so that the country can be properly policed because Section 14 prescribed that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Seyi Sowemimo, said though the right to bear arm was not expressly provided for in the constitution, it could be implied from the right to life.
The SAN said the Executive Order was ill-timed, noting that it came at a time when the country faced greater insecurity.
Sowemimo said, “What I find wrong with the Executive Order is that it is coming at a time when there is growing insecurity in the land; when people are increasingly exposed to kidnapping, herdsmen threat and so on, and the government is not able to put adequate security in place. This is what makes it all the more worrisome.
Also, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), the Executive Order was in conflict with Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and Section 258 of the Criminal Code on self-defence.
Ozekhome said, “The Executive order is also gravely flawed in the sense that those known and notorious to illegally possess these same arms,like herdsmen,were not even named at all.”
Also reacting to the reported revocation, a former Director of the State Security Service, Mike Ejiofor, advised members of the House of Representatives to always carry out due diligence before rising and supporting motions on issues of national importance.
He told one of our correspondents that the legislators ought to have established the existence of such an executive order before making it an issue for debate on the floor.
According to him, the order in question currently exists in the realm of speculations because there apparently is no document within the public space to suggest that it exists.
Ejiofor said, “Have you seen the Presidential Order? I have not seen the order yet and we should not be affirmative about what we have not seen.
“As far as I am concerned, that issue is still in the realm of speculation. I don’t know why the National Assembly and the House of Representatives particularly should be debating without seeing the authenticity of that order.
“I have not seen the order and the Presidency has not issued any statement regarding that order. I think the National Assembly has not done due diligence in this matter as far as I am concerned, with all due respect. They should first of all establish that there is an order like that, because in law, you cannot build something on nothing. Until we are sure that the order is out, then we can start to comment.”
Similarly, a retired commissioner of police, Abubakar Tsav, expressed doubt over the existence of such an order, saying he would be surprised if it existed.
He said, “What I expect to happen is for the police that is the issuing authority to carry out an audit of such licences. This will help us find out those using expired licences which can either be revoked or renewed depending on the situation.
“We also need to tighten the laws guarding the issuance of these licences and make sure those who flout these laws are punished accordingly.
“What we have today are people who get this license but have refused to renew them, these licences are supposed to be renewed annually.”
He added, “What has happened to those arrested for illegal importation of firearms? All we hear is that so and so people have been arrested for importing this number of firearms but how many have been tried and convicted? We must show that we are a serious country.''